5 Ways to enjoy Durga Puja in Mumbai

Mulla ki daur masjid tak! Yeh kahawat toh suni hogi. My posts will always have saree and self-care at the heart of it.

So, while my last post was about how to enjoy the Bambai ki barish in a saree, weather the commute and slushy roads, in a saree, this post is about how to enjoy Durga Pujo in Mumbai in a saree.

The October heat has set in with a vengeance. Humidity is on its rise and with it, perspiration.

For all Probashi Bangalis, this excruciating heat comes right in the face of Durga Pujo. In a nutshell, it’s 5 days of fun, family, friends, fashion and food. But, you will most likely fail in your attempts to avoid perspiration if you are planning to step out of your homes. October heat in Mumbai is punishing and brutal.

So, while I cannot help you avoid perspiration, I can be of some service by sharing with you some pointers about how you can put yourself at ease. Based purely on my experience, these tips might help you to stay cool and breezy:

  1. Your new clothes

Durga Pujo means new clothes- new sarees, blouses, kurtas, tops palazzos and so on. When the clothes are brand new, they are starched and stiff and don’t breathe well, compounding the heat quotient of your outfit. My advice would be to water-rinse the new outfit before wearing it. It will make it supple and ease up the stiffness of the fabric, open up the pores, so to speak and make it breathable. Please use your discretion before doing this- some sarees may not be amenable to a prior water-rinse. Some fabrics might bleed colour, so please exercise caution. Use wash instructions on the clothes if any. If you are planning to wear dhakai sarees, do not water-rinse them. Air them and then wear them.  

  • Go simple on the make-up

Going for Durga Pujo in the afternoon means bhog. (Bhog is a simple dal-khichdi preparation served with a mixed vegetable dish called labra). The pandals in Mumbai serve piping hot bhog, for which one needs to queue up. There could be times when you may not find a place to sit and eat. And this scenario is all part of the Pujo charm and festivity. You will feel the summer heat, along with all the handling of hot food, the crowd and hot surrounding. Go light on the foundation and primer, which will help your skin breathe better and help you stay cool to an extent.

  • Go easy on layering

A Durga Puja pandal is also an exhibition of seeing your friends and family in their best ensemble. It’s almost a fashion parade. The October heat is not amenable to thick and heavy silks like Kanjeevaram and Benarasi. Unless you are going for the Juhu Pujo or the Vashi Pujo, which are all air-conditioned, go for Taants, Linens and cottons, Ikats, Khadis, Kotas,  etc. Most Durga Puja pandals in Mumbai do not have AC. Also, with the blouses, of course be fashionable, but try to avoid high-neck blouses and full sleeves. If you are planning to wear a salwar-kurta, wrap it in a way that’s comfortable. Flowy dupattas look very graceful, but when the heat is on, it can dampen the fashion quotient significantly. Comfort over fashion is the mantra here.

  • Wear sarees you can manage.

Durga Puja means a mix of day-wear and evening wear. In the day, it means Anjali, Bhog, prayers and so on. Evenings might mean watching the cultural program in your favourite pandal, going pandal-hopping, eating non-vegetarian delicacies and meeting long lost friends whom you haven’t met the rest of the year. In the day, try and wear non-fuss outfits. It’s hot and humid, and all that bhog ritual mentioned earlier can get a bit overwhelming. So, cotton, linens, kota, dhakai sarees would be ideal. If you are a first-time wearer of sarees, or relatively new at it, pin up your pleats and your anchal. If you want a casual drape, that’s fine too. Take a casual fold and then pin it up. I would recommend practising for a few days before if you want to feel confident. Save your richer varieties for the evening. Evenings are much cooler, more convenient in terms of activities. But, also more crowded. Choose your evening sarees to shine. Pull out your crepe silks and kanjeevarams, chanderis and so on. Just one more piece of advice for the newbies – don’t be conscious. Nothing kills the fun more than under-confidence.

  • Hairdos

You might want to keep your hair loose for that glamorous look. There are many open hairstyles you could choose from for a festive and neat look. Although, I love a neat bun and/or braid. It’s conventional, and festive and never out of vogue. The downside is that open hair can also add to the hotness. Keep a scrunchie handy or a butterfly clip to manage your hair. The October heat is nobody’s friend and especially in the pandals, which most often have a shamiana, can stifle cross-breeze.

Some other basics to beat the heat:

  1. Shower before your outing – Nothing adds freshness like a good bath/shower. It usually keeps you cool for at least a couple of hours.
  2. Carry a bottle of water, a small hand-towel, a tiny cloth bag and a spoon in your handbag.
  3. Carry a deo, for that quick-fix freshness.
  4. Visit pandals that are indoors. There are more than 200 Durga Puja pandals in Mumbai. Some are on open grounds, some are in a community halsl, some are in temples.

I possibly cannot complete this post, without telling you which Durga Puja Pandals in Mumbai are a must-visit.

– If you go to the Durga Pujas of Khar West (Ramkrishna Mission) or Tejpal, the ambience is cooler. These Pujas take place inside a hall, with fans around and lesser crowd. There are ample places to sit, if not chairs, but carpeted floors, steps of the temple etc. You are likely to have a much better time there. Juhu (Rani Mukherjee’s Durga Puja) is also a great place and if you are lucky, you’ll be able to spot a few celebrities.

– Some pandals, such as in Vashi have now invested in Vashi fully air-conditioned pandals.

– Powai Durga Puja is huge. They alone have a footfall of about a lakh a day. They are very organised, with a VIP lounge and all. Their cultural programmes are awesome and you are most likely to have a great time.

There are also the legendary ones like Bandra West and Chembur. A bit massy, but also classy. And small compounds. But they have super fabulous food stalls.

Durga Puja is also a season to eat delicious Bong cuisine. Not necessarily pocket friendly, but I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that Bengalis are the only community who eat non-vegetarian food during Durga Puja.

Hope I have been able to help you with some pointers. So, start flaunting your best outfits and eat to your hearts’ content. Pujo comes only once a year.

Side bar – I had written this post last year about a month before Pujas. But given this pandemic, I am not sure what the plight of any festival would be.